What do you suppose our deepest desire is? If you said approval and acceptance, you know that we humans can never get enough. A simple “thank you” from a stranger can literally make your day. Today I am wearing the smile that you left me with the other day. Oh, and don’t forget to thank everyone who posted birthday wishes on your Facebook, making you look a lot more popular than you really are. Heh. But seriously, genuine recognition can make you suddenly feel energized and ready to take on new challenges. It’s human nature to want appreciation for your personal worth and accomplishments.

Do you not act differently when you feel needed or highly regarded? After all, can you even dislike someone who appreciates and applauds you? The truth is we are all quite fragile. People will seek nourishment any way they can get it. If you are starved for respect or recognition, you may act negatively – even destructively. Speaking of nourishment, shouldn’t nutrition labels include: “What if I ate the whole thing?” section? We all know that the toughest part of a diet is not watching what you eat. It’s watching what others eat. Then again, they say the only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steaks to cook. But I meandered…

“I only feel comfortable when I’m around you. You’re like the sweatpants of my life.” “You’re that ‘nothing’ when people ask me what I’m thinking about.” “I never have the Monday morning blues, because of a co-worker like you.” Awww. Heck, I can live for months on a good compliment. How about you? What magic words would you like to hear?

Are you stingy with your warm fuzzies? Pay attention today. Did you hear more negative or positive remarks? Want to know the best way to reinforce positive behavior? Heap the praise on him. It releases dopamine in your brain, that good ole chemical associated with joy. So, needless to say, we want to recreate that feeling. Who wouldn’t? Oh, and by the way, if you enjoy building up and boosting others, you receive the same chemical reward. Win-win.

Individual attention creates bonds. When she does something specific that you wish to encourage, by all means congratulate and celebrate her. Look around for any praiseworthy action. Resist the impulse to wait. Go ahead. Do it now. Make it widely known. Build her up in public while you’re at it.

So many around us are drowning in negativity. You know what they say: “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” There’s always something to be grateful for. If you can’t pay your bills, you can be thankful you’re not one of your creditors.

Are you guilty of only paying attention to the squeaky wheel? Perhaps you’re that boss who offers verbal warnings and discipline when needed, but do you ever say “Great job,” “Thank you for staying late again”? The most overwhelming influence on human behavior is – you guessed it – appreciation and approval.

Are you aware that there have been studies on the brain indicating that we humans respond to getting approval in a similar way to receiving a monetary reward? Speaking of money, I’m currently boycotting any company that sells items that I can’t afford. Then again, I won $3 million in the lottery this weekend. I decided to donate a quarter of it to charity. Now I have $2,999,999.75. Never lend money to your friend. It’s dangerous. It could damage his memory.

But seriously, one word of caution. Please do not overinflate your children’s ego by saying “Good job” every time they do what is expected of them. Children can become quite arrogant and full of themselves, as well. Yes, it’s okay to gush over their good behavior, as it can help motivate them after a perceived failure.  Just make sure they truly earned the pat on the back.

Shorten the distance between you and your loved ones by offering that honey-worded rave review. Go ahead and high-five him. Please don’t underestimate the power of a kind word or some sweet talk. Start the praise with the word “I.” “I really appreciate what you did,” instead of “Well done” or “Good job.” Keep it personal. Who wouldn’t want a greater sense of being valued?

Praise things that go unnoticed or are behind the scenes. Let him share his expertise. Demonstrate respect for his knowledge by asking advice. Show her that you trust her judgment.

It’s been said: “Look back and be grateful. Look ahead and be hopeful. Look around and be helpful.” Please sing the praises of someone at least once a day, sweet friends. A compliment is verbal sunshine. What’s stopping you from spreading some today?

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or at facebook.com/pages/Safe-Haven-Healing.